A Matter of Time

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”I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the
moment, (Yes, sir) however frustrating the hour, it will not
be long, (No sir) because “truth crushed to earth will rise
again.” (Yes, sir)
How long? Not long, (Yes, sir) because “no lie can live forever.”
(Yes, sir)
How long? Not long, (All right. How long) because “you
shall reap what you sow.” (Yes, sir)
How long? (How long?) Not long: (Not long)

How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is
long, but it bends toward justice. (Yes, sir)
How long? Not long,…
In another time,
I arrived here,
unfree, in exile,
in metamorphosing chains
a spirit naked, vulnerable
to the voyeurs’ gaze
that constructed me
in an aesthetic of extremes
forced across seas,
beyond reason, into madness
my voice was not lost
it was taken
my beloved Iroko tree
carved into my back
branches tipped with budding,
bloody leaves; deep roots
spanning two worlds
400 years have passed & still
I have not yet learned to navigate
the hyphened space
between African & american
but, tell me, who counts the days?
Ma Rainey sang her blues for me
like Bessie did, like Billie
sang Strange Fruit blues
and Zora talked about it
my mothers: grand, great and just
were blues women, too
sensuality & soul sifted though ancestral sounds
low moans birthed in cramped quarters,
a battle cry to Warrior spirits named
Oya, Hatshepsut and Nzingha
Granny Nanny, Mother Harriet,
Ella, Fannie Lou, Queen Mother Moore,
Vina & Bettye Melba
it is the song of black birds
perched atop trees
bearing witness
in the timbre of their tune the begged question, “How
Response: Not long.
I channel them on stages
in meetings, in classrooms,
in languages of human
resource and public policy
in places sacred & profane
my scream reverberates from inner,
to outer and cyber space
biting words rush from my mind like
self-emancipated slaves,
burn my lips, my fingertips
unmasking my invisibility
people ask,
so angry?!”
Do you not see my arms aching
for babies lost and stolen?
sold in marketplaces, on auction blocks,
to private prisons and for-profit
foster care, killed in imperial
and urban guerilla wars
poetic tragedies in which Kiyanna,
Boo, Larry and Phil forever die
on South Side streets
denied birthrights of literacy;
the right to be safe
and whole
I mourn memories, collective
& private
wombs: cut off/cut out
after wet-nursing america
to “Divine-Divaship”
the breasts of the state now dry
& sag around a bloated middle
the true mark of an old vulture
perhaps my anger reflects
the tiredness of my pain
Chants of democracy
lose meaning in survival struggle
that consumes each new thought in utero,
necrotizes the flesh from action
before our eyes, on 24 hour newsreels,
voters made voteless
families are foreclosed upon,
unruly markets shape shift
into tsunamis
& Katrina is revealed
as an undercover gov’t operative
on the payrolls of Black Water & Haliburton
superbugs named MRSA rival
HIV/AIDS as new predators
in controlled environments
where roaches and rats feed
alongside politicians & money changers
who, after orally & anally violating
the body of We The People
are bailed out with its life blood through gas pump hoses;
and street thugs known as GDs
are foot soldiers for global gangsters called G8s & G20s
and while the golden arches
may sometime resemble an oasis
in the expanse of neoliberal
(code names: deindustrialization
code named: depopulation
code named: gentrification)
I can’t rescue my children with
a “happy” meal
The margins are filled with those
overwhelmed with gingoism
who are sold the goods of life
with foreign trademarks
our own shelf life less
than most 3rd world countries
we gather to commiserate,
self medicate and cleanse ourselves
with prayer, clinging to amulets
bathed in holy water tears
the brazen among us
push tight clenched fists
into the face of the center
I stand here
not alone, but with the ghosts
of mothers/sisters/aunts/nieces/daughters
crowding my space,
speaking in ecumenical tongues,
through bodies, real and incorporeal,
this poem our offering to life
& light/hope & healing,
peace, love & the desire
to draw breath
one day again
I heard in his question, “How long ‘til freedom?”
Call: How long? Response: Not long
but tell me, who really counts the days?

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